, Volume 70, Issue 2, pp 378-384

Transient asymmetry in the projections of the rostral thalamus to the visual hyperstriatum of the chicken, and reversal of its direction by light exposure

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Summary

Asymmetry in the visual pathways from the rostral thalamus to the hyperstriatum of the chicken has been found after injecting the retrograde tracer, True Blue (TB), into either the left or right hyperstriatum on day 2 or 12, post-hatching. There are ipsilateral connections from the ventromedial region of the left dorsolateral thalamus, lateral part (DLL) to the left hyperstriatum, and contralateral connections from the left dorsolateral thalamus, rostrolateral part (DLAlr) and the dorsolateral thalamus, dorsal part (DLLd) to the right hyperstriatum. On the right side of the thalamus, the ipsilateral connections from DLL to the right hyperstriatum are present, but there are only very few contralateral connections to the left hyperstriatum. No asymmetry in these pathways is seen in animals injected with TB on day 21. By this age the contralateral connections from the right thalamus to the left hyperstriatum have developed. Thus, the structural asymmetry in these visual pathways is transient, a finding which explains a controversy between two papers published recently in this journal, and which adds considerably to our understanding of the behavioural asymmetries known to occur in the chicken's response to stimuli presented to either the left or right eye. The direction of the asymmetry in visual pathways depends on asymmetrical light input to the eyes of the embryo. Normally the head of the embryo is oriented such that the left eye is occluded. If the head is withdrawn from the egg so that the right eye can be occluded and the left eye exposed to light, the direction of asymmetry in the thalamo-hyperstriatal pathways is reversed. The contralateral connections from the right side of the thalamus (fed by the left eye) to the left hyperstriatum are now present, while those from the left thalamus (fed by the right eye) to the right hyperstriatum are absent. Thus light exposure stimulates the growth of the contralateral connections from the rostral thalamus to hyperstriatum.